On a trip to Finland a couple of summers ago, we visited the extraordinary Bovik Farm, where Sebastian Nurmi and his wife Ülle tend to indigenous breeds of cattle and sheep. We found many reasons to be knocked out – not only by the beautiful house and land, but by Nurmi’s story of a profound and unexpected life change.
While working as a fashion photographer living in Helsinki, in the 1980’s Nurmi bought a charming but derelict 40-acre farm in the province of Western Uusimaa. He planned to use it as a retreat and a rural base for his photography business. Over several years of going sporadically, he grew conscious of the need to tend the land, which was overgrown, with many fields let fallow. As he described it, it became absolutely clear to him that he should be working it. And he embraced the change.
The city-born Nurmi took courses to learn about organic farming and husbandry. He began to raise sheep and Finland’s then-endangered indigenous Kyyttö forest cattle. Gradually, he started selling beef and lamb to Helsinki’s great restaurants, and is considered one of the visionaries in Finland’s burgeoning local/sustainable movement. He uses his sheep and cattle for landscape management; they thrive by grazing the grounds all across Uusimaa province, including dozens of islands, and the land benefits from being thus “trimmed”.
To look at him, you’d think Nurmi was pure farmer, with little inkling of the urban person he once was. His beautiful house belies his acute aesthetic eye and sensibility that is part-and-parcel to who he has become: photographer ->farmer, and a man who LISTENED.
Stay tuned for a tour of Nurmi’s house, coming up in the next post…
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